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Training for Suppliers

Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (UEDCL) held training recently for its suppliers to enhance quality control among their product suppliers at the pole plant in Lugogo. Discussed among others, was the entire poles-buying process. Some suppliers after the training shared their experiences working with UEDCL.

MUGISHA JUSTUS-47, Managing Director of Muugi Enterprises Limited whose company is one of the longest serving suppliers of UEDCL attended the training. Having started out in 2008 as a supplier of seasoned poles, he set to ensure fast and timely distribution of seasoned poles ranging between 9m- 14m in length as contracted, and today he has no regrets.

“I have enjoyed working with UEDCL majorly because their payment systems are so good and fast. Unlike many other players who expose you to a lot of bureaucracy and lengthy processes before remitting your payments, UEDCL pays just in time, usually a few days after supplying the poles, which is good for cash flows in our business” he narrates, all smiles.

Today Mr. Mugisha is one of the many Ugandan enjoying and above average standard of living courtesy of his business relationship with UEDCL. He is one of the six main suppliers who won supply contract tendered by UEDCL.
However, he urges the UEDCL board to table uniform prices for the different products of different contract bidders to ensure a fair playing ground; “Our contracts read different prices for the same product which is kind of unfair. We want uniform Prices. There should be a post-bidding meeting held by UEDCL board to agree on a uniform price for all those who were contracted.”

CHRISTINE KIMALANKU NALUMANSI (28)- CHRISKIM(U)LTD
One of the youngest of six major suppliers of seasoned wooden poles is a lady to envy. At 28, she supplies over 120 seasoned poles to the UEDCL pole plant every two days and with this, she has grown wings in the pole business, and made great strides. Having started out in 2010, the two years so far in the business have been full of glory for her since her business is stable.

She sources raw poles from Ishaka, Bushenyi, Arua, FortPortal, Kagadi among others, and supplies to UEDCL and other private companies.
“The beauty with poles is that you are not dealing with a perishable product especially when well handled. So you are mostly likely to get a return on your investment. UEDCL is a company worth working for because the staff have a personal approach to dealing with you and are always will to help. They make a task seem effortless. I particularly appreciate the company’s prompt payment systems which mean they don’t sit around with your money to constrain your business” she narrates.

She applauds UEDCL for doing a great job in ensuring the availability of electricity poles which has enabled government Rural Electrification Projects to extend to all areas of the country which she believes will contribute greatly to the fight against poverty as our people start up income generating activities.
“We have been trained in the various quality measures to ensure that raw poles are delivered in good condition. This will help on our performance as suppliers because we sometimes sustain loses when poles are rejected on inspection during delivery”. Says Christine.

ARTHUR CHIEF GARUBANDA 37 year old is yet another player and major supplier of seasoned poles to the UEDCL pole plant and has no regrets for joining the seasoned pole supply business. Having returned from the UK two years ago, he was at God’s mercy to identify a viable business to engage him, with no plans for formal employment, but dealing in electricity poles provided the answers and today, he is one of the happy few Ugandans with a flourishing business.

“It has improved my life, I am doing so well with the pole business and frankly I feel luck working with a big company like UEDCL,” Mr Chief says.
His query however is that UEDCL needs to increase storage space at the lugogo plant so that suppliers like him are able to increase the quantity of seasoned poles delivered. Otherwise, due to space constraints, they are sometime force to delay delivery until products are marketed. “I believe with more space, the UEDCL pole plant will be able to out-compete any other players in terms of quality and availability of treated poles which is also good for our businesses, He says.

And after all is said and done, The UEDCL’s Pole Plant Manager, Mr. Protaze Tibyakinura is still very optimistic and energetic about the potential of the UEDCL pole plant. He says, that suppliers should be ready to supply more because the demand for treated electricity pole is growing.

“Right now, our production capacity is about 35,000 treated poles a year which is only 50% of the installed capacity. The market demand for treated poles in the entire country is estimated at 100,000 poles per year. We want to increase our production efficiency to 80% to produce a target output of 70,000 treated poles annually and this will mean that our suppliers should gear up to increase supply capacities which means more business to the commercial farmer of trees, more business to suppliers, transporters and causal labourers,” he said

However as the company looks up to suppliers to increase the production capacity to serve the growing market, UEDCL is already drawing up plans to ensure equitable supply of raw poles through commercial tree planting projects. The company has already planted 32 hectares of eucalyptus trees. “We are also running a successful out growers scheme were we give support to private individuals with land and having the interest to plant trees commercially, he says.

And with that, Mr Tibyakinura says their plan is to have about 1000 hectares of planted trees by 2014, 500 planted directly by UEDCL and 500 hectares through the out growers scheme funded by UEDCL . That way, the company makes a meaningful contribution to the societies directly engaging in this business while regenerating the environment.

“We did a feasibility study in 2010, and discovered that in terms of forest cover, there is sufficiency however most of these trees are still in the tender stages. But the danger is that trees are cut young by dealers in the construction sector usually at the age of 4yrs thus,  we need to prepare ground for the days to come as far as big poles that need to attain an average age of 10yrs are concerned, that is why we are aggressively planting”

On the issue of increasing stock space, UEDCL has already identified space for additional storage and further seasoning of poles. He says with this space, we can now buy freshly cut poles and stack them for controlled seasoning, which has been a challenge in the past.

There is work in progress for the plant to acquire 150 acres of land on which to construct a state-of-the-art storage facility to increase production and supply capacity.

This is an abridged version of a news article developed at a UEDCL Supplier training workshop.

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